WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators and President Bush agreed yesterday to a potentially historic deal on an immigration bill that would give 12 million undocumented residents the chance to become legal Americans while beefing up border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal workers.
The measure would also lift an immigration backlog currently stretching up to 22 years, which has delayed the applications of an estimated 4 million people seeking to become legal permanent immigrants — including thousands of high-skilled workers in the biotech and high-tech industries in Massachusetts.
from the Boston Globe
Of all the news reports we’ve read on this topic (and it led most of the newscasts and papers in the nation) the Globe was the only one that hit the key claim in the lead – that this bill will clear up the ICE backlog of up to 22 YEARS!
But first an aside on acronyms. The US Immigration authorities, faceless bureaucrats who change lives in snap decisions and subjective evaluations, since time immemorial were known as the immigration and naturalization service, or INS. As opposed to the OUTS, who were their supplicants. Seemingly immune to the angst and tragedies unfolding daily in their anterooms and interview cubicals, it is uneasily appropriate that they have been re-branded as ICE, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trading “Service” for “Enforcement” is the Republican Way.
But back to our exception to the assumption. Those people who have been waiting 22 years for their visas, refugees from the wars in Central America in the 1980’s, are still waiting. INS was abysmally understaffed and overworked, on top of being legendary for it’s inefficiency and bureaucratic obfuscation, BEFORE 9/11, back when they were issuing tourist and student visas as fast as they could fill out the forms and collect the fees. Now that they are actually investigating people before issuing visas, the time lag for applicants has tripled.
Having to spend so much time dealing with visa applications from people wanting to enter the country has left the ICE men and women almost no time to deal with the supplicants already here. Millions of aliens are mired in a legal limbo as their applications languish or wallow in windowless repositories.
To think that this already dysfunctional organization is up to processing 12 MILLION new applicants, fingerprinting, photographing, running background checks, giving English exams, evaluating academic records, taking employer testimony and issuing decisions is so ludicrous it would be high comedy were it not high tragedy. Lift the backlog, my ass. Not without hiring a million new ICE agents. Hmmmm…….